• Traffic Management
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Artificial Intelligence

Advanced Traffic Management Is Emerging as a Key Pillar of Smart Cities

Ryan Citron
Apr 26, 2019

Smart Car 2

Traffic congestion is rising in cities around the world. Contributing factors include the expansion of urban populations, aging infrastructure, inefficient and uncoordinated traffic signal timing, and a lack of real-time data. The impacts are significant: INRIX estimates that traffic congestion cost US commuters $305 billion in 2017 due to wasted fuel, lost time, and the increased cost of transporting goods through congested areas. Considering the physical and financial limitations around building additional roads, cities must use new strategies and technologies to improve traffic conditions.

How to Solve Traffic Congestion

Advanced traffic management technologies such as adaptive traffic control (ATC) and traffic analytics can improve safety and significantly decrease traffic congestion levels, emergency response times, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a result, these technologies are helping cities achieve other objectives including economic, environmental, and social goals. Advanced traffic management systems (ATMS) are also enabling the development of smart intersections, which are emerging as one of the most important data-driven backbones needed for solving core city challenges.

Similar to the platform capabilities offered by smart street lighting, layers of additional services can be added to ATMS, such as public transport prioritization and communications with connected vehicles. Additionally, ATMS can reduce the effects of a common impediment to smart city development: the siloed structure of government. Centralized traffic platforms that provide operational views of all city assets (e.g., roads, trains, buses, ferries) can help connect previously uncoordinated city attempts at quelling traffic congestion.

Moving Toward ATMS in Smart Cities

Globally and within countries, cities vary in their level of maturity in terms of using ATMS. Collecting traffic and vehicle detection data are often the first steps toward advanced traffic management, followed by in-depth traffic analytics that enable traffic managers to develop mitigation strategies and make operational improvements to existing traffic signal timing systems. In smart cities with mature traffic management solutions, ATC technologies enable traffic signals to adjust based on real-time traffic conditions (with increasing use of artificial intelligence), traffic data is sent to connected vehicles traveling in the traffic flow, inter-agency data sharing is on the rise, and transport platforms enable cities to better manage their mobility ecosystem.

Navigant Research identifies the stages of mature ATMS in smart cities in the following figure.

Stages of Advanced Traffic Management in Smart Cities

Stages of Advanced Traffic Management in Smart Cities from Developing to Mature flow chart

(Source: Navigant Research)

Cities Should Take Advantage of ATMS

With congestion levels set to continue increasing, cities are in dire need of new strategies and technologies that will reduce traffic congestion and GHG emissions. The majority of traffic management is still being performed with outdated technology. As a result, many cities are missing out on the benefits offered by ATMS. Further use of ATMS will enable cities to accommodate the expected arrival of additional vehicle populations and allow for more efficient functioning of the traffic management ecosystem.

For more analysis on the ongoing transformation occurring in the traffic management industry, see Navigant Research’s upcoming 2Q 2019 report, Advanced Traffic Management for Smart Cities.